Today’s EU: Trump’s State of the Union

Today’s EU:  Trump’s State of the Union

This is today’s economic update from Richard Wolff for Democracy at Work and for our Patreon community. I want to speak very briefly today about one particular assertion by President Trump in the State of the Union message that subsequently got quite a bit of play, but shouldn’t have because it is a classic misrepresentation of capitalism. Mr. Trump, who probably doesn’t know about this, simply is repeating a style that he inherited from all the other Republicans and for that matter from most of the Democrats as well. It’s called taking credit for something you tried and failed to block. The greatest example, before we get to Mr. Trump’s small version, the greatest example is the Great Depression in the United States in the 1930s. It was pressure from below; the union movement, the CIO, two socialist parties and a communist party that basically organized millions of American working people and went to the then President Roosevelt and said, “We’re going through the worst depression in capitalism’s history,” which was true enough, “and we want help from the government, which you’re not giving.” “You’re a Democratic president and, basically, we’re here to say to you,” they were quite polite, “you either give us the help that we need to get through this depression, or we will not vote for you again and you will not be able to be the dog catcher in a local community, let alone the president.” This message was clear enough that President Roosevelt got it and went to work to achieve it. I won’t go through the long stories, but here’s the result: social security system, given by Roosevelt in response to this pressure, the unemployment compensation system, given by Mr. Roosevelt in response to this pressure, the first minimum wage in American history, given by Mr. Roosevelt in response to this pressure, and the first federal jobs mass program, 15 million people hired and given jobs, incomes, dignity, the ability to meet their mortgage payments, and all the rest. It created a genuine middle class if by middle you mean that part of the working class that gets a decent job, decent income, decent benefits, and some security. Then, imagine how stunned many of us are to read in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, even into the 1980s boastful statements by capitalists, by Republicans who had blocked everything Mr. Roosevelt did, had advised him often to repress, including militarily, the movement from below, rather than accommodate it. How amazed we were to read that one of the achievements of American capitalism, the spokesmen for the system told us – in those days it was spokesmen, women were not allowed in this capitalist system to be in that position. Anyway, we were told that capitalism is wonderful because it delivers a middle class. No, capitalism does everything it can to prevent it. One of the ways we know that is it didn’t exist before, the vaunted middle class, and they’ve been busily destroying it in the last forty years. But they wanted to take credit for it. Having failed to block it, they were smart enough, “Okay, we couldn’t stop it. Now, let’s take credit for it.” Fast forward to Mr. Trump at the State of the Union. Boldly, he says, “The bottom of the working class is doing better even than the rest of the working class. We’ve lifted up the people at the bottom.” What a liar. The only reason the statistics show an unusual bump at the bottom is because of everything done by the labor unions in this country, by the mass movement of white and black working-class people to finally confront the retail industry, the fast-food industry, with their campaign for a minimum $15 wage increase. It forced first, states, then, big corporations, and now almost everybody else finally, late to get into the game and give a decent wage. Mr. Trump did absolutely nothing to help that process. Mr. Trump and the Republicans did everything possible to stop it, to block it, to prevent it. For him then to turn around and act as if his administration deserves credit, that takes a kind of boldness few other liars could probably match.

21 thoughts on “Today’s EU: Trump’s State of the Union

  1. the problem of the modern left more than the right is this perpetual believe that jobs must be the main harbinger of human realization, happiness and dignity when we all know that jobs/work are the main thing that are pushing us back as a civilization. because it is not want to change at all and free people from it. we have more labor slaves today than ever in the history of mankind. that is what the left and you mister wolff are not even close to admit that you are wrong. please take a risk and dare yourself to give us a new away of thinking free from this work boundaries, lets do this. upgrading earth 2.0

  2. Used to be able to work a good paying job with benefits and support your family, put money away for your kids education and retire working that same job. Sadly those days are long gone

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  4. But why did the FDR plan collapse ? Because there was still the halve baked theory of a minimum wage, a hopeless solution for a more complex problem. You cannot detect wrong social policies as fast as engineering faults which shows up fast and dramatically. But social mistakes fester for decades and then burst out in chaos. History proves all this.
    There's a disconnect between reality, and the way capitalism remunerates the laborer.
    Why ?
    Because the illegal tender the FED issues is a wholly imaginary concept that is light years away from any semblance of reality.
    So how does one fix this ?
    By relating the value of labor, exactly to the living costs of the laborer & his/her dependents in total, during the time frame agreed upon before the job started. Living costs per day ; an average will become obvious over time adjustable of course….
    Tell me if you can think of a more realistic idea please. So imagine a lot of those living costs will be food, so why not use wheat as a benchmark of value to unify the whole system into a manageable simple exercise instead of having all these tax and finance 'experts' that must now be supported by laborers – they produce nothing in the economy, something a machine can do !

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